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Homily for 2/19/12 - LJ - Feeding the inner Christ

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 25:31-46 Every year, it seems, or perhaps even more frequently these days, we hear that the world is going to end. For the most part, when we hear these
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 19, 2012
      Matt 25:31-46

      Every year, it seems, or perhaps even more frequently these days, we
      hear that the world is going to end. For the most part, when we hear
      these things, we just laugh a little and go on with our lives. But
      somewhere in the back of the mind there is that nagging little thought,
      “What if they’re right this time?” And so even imperceptibly as the “big
      day” approaches there’s a little kernel of anxiety that builds up, and
      then, after its all over and the world is still here, a big sigh of relief.

      This whole sense of anxiety comes over us because we know that indeed
      the end of the world is coming, but we don’t know when or even how. Such
      knowledge is beyond even the most intelligent of men for this is an
      event ordained by God and He alone knows what will be. It is built into
      the soul of men that one day we will stand before God who will judge us
      and call us to account for our lives. This judgment, we know, will
      indeed be the end of the world.

      In the Gospel there are a number of different descriptions of what the
      “end times” and this final judgment will be like. Because the whole
      picture is beyond our ability to comprehend, these descriptions only
      provide a limited idea, or even just a metaphor of what that time will
      be like. We do know, however, that our particular judgment after death
      is only a precursor of the Great and final Judgment when all of mankind
      will be resurrected and stand before the throne of God the Son, Who will
      descend from heaven with the whole angelic host. This Great Judgment
      will occur, tradition tells us, in the valley of Jehosephat which is the
      valley that runs right through modern Jerusalem and out into the Judean
      desert. Located in this valley overlooked on one side by the Temple
      Mount and on the other by the Mount of Olives we find the tomb of the
      Virgin and further out in the wilderness the ancient monastery of St
      Sabbas the Great. At this Judgment, all mankind will be separated
      between those who love and serve God on one hand and those who have
      rejected Him on the other. Those who love God are established in the
      mansions of the Kingdom of Heaven and those who have rejected Him will
      be consigned to the torments of hell designed for the devil and his
      demons. But what all this will actually look like and what the
      experience will be is given to us only in faint images. Therefore we
      know that indeed the end is a reality and it is coming. On that day we
      will have to give an account for the whole of our existence.

      Today in the Gospel we read one such account of the Great Judgment. Our
      great Lord Jesus Christ will sit upon His heavenly throne and looking
      into the heart will see if we gave food to the hungry, drink to those
      who thirst, clothing to the naked and comfort to the sick and
      imprisoned. Those who acted with compassion and love toward their
      neighbor will be set on His right hand, and admitted to the Kingdom of
      Heaven, for they have demonstrated that they are like Christ full of
      mercy and compassion and love for mankind. Those who have turned away
      from love and compassion towards others and who are not like Christ will
      be set on His left side and condemned to torment. The key here is not
      simply the weight of the works that were done but rather whether or not
      the life of Christ lives in each person.

      There are, as St Nikolai of Ochrid tells us, both an outer and an inner
      meaning to this judgment. The outer meaning is clear – that by our
      actions we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked
      and comfort the suffering. If we do these things as an expression of our
      nature, then we show that Christ, who is Himself love and compassion,
      lives in us.

      The inner meaning, however, does not deal with others but with our own
      soul. In this case as we look at our own soul and see that it hungers
      and we feed our soul with the food of Christ. The soul thirsts and we
      quench that thirst by giving to it the grace of God. The soul is naked
      and we clothe it with the virtues which are the shining raiment of
      Christ. The soul suffers with the sickness of sin and captivity to the
      passions; and so we comfort the soul and encourage it to hold fast to
      the hope of salvation in Christ. We see the neediness of our own soul
      and how we meet those needs will determine whether or not we have “put
      on Christ” and so have His life living in us.

      For what does the soul hunger? The soul hungers for spiritual food which
      gives meaning and purpose to life. There are many religions that claim
      to provide such spiritual food, however it is only from our Lord Jesus
      Christ that we receive the true food that not only satisfies the craving
      but also provides life to the soul. If we take the analogy of the soul
      and the body, the food of Christ which comes from the Gospel, which
      comes from prayer, which comes from communion with Christ, is a full,
      nutritious meal which brings health to the body while satisfying the
      hunger. Other religions provide only “junk food”, empty calories which
      give the illusion of food in that the hunger is dulled but which do not
      nourish the soul and contain no life.

      Therefore when you see the hunger of your soul, feed it with that food
      which is full of life. Read the Gospel and live it in your life. Commune
      with Jesus Christ the giver of life in prayer each day. There is a
      spiritual banquet set before you through the reading of the Gospel and
      prayer. Feed the hungry soul with this banquet that the life of Christ
      may grow and flourish in it.

      For what does the soul thirst? The soul thirsts for the true life that
      comes only from the grace of God. In order to give the soul true drink,
      we must therefore seek out the fountains of grace and drink from them.
      First and foremost are the fountains of grace that are the sacraments;
      baptism and chrismation, Holy Communion, repentance (confession), and
      the others that bring grace to our lives. We should come and drink from
      these fountains of grace as often as possible so that the soul is filled
      with the life-giving grace of God.

      How do we clothe the naked soul? When our first parents, Adam and Eve,
      sinned, they realized that they were naked before God. They had not been
      naked before but were clothed with the shining garments of the glory of
      God which reflected the Life that was in them. But when they turned away
      from God and rebelled against Him, they no longer had that bright
      clothing and were naked. How then can we now clothe this soul that
      stands naked before God? This we do by acquiring the wardrobe of the
      virtues and clothing the soul with this glorious clothing. We clothe the
      soul with those same acts of love and compassion that make up the
      “outer” meaning of this judgment, to feed the hungry, give drink to the
      thirsty, clothe the naked and comfort the suffering. We also nurture
      within ourselves the greater virtues of humility, love, joy, peace,
      patience and those other “fruits of the Holy Spirit” which are the
      result of the life of Christ in us. These clothes for the soul, these
      virtues, are the shining garments of grace which we lost in our
      sinfulness, but which our Lord Jesus Christ makes available to us again
      that we might no longer be naked, but clothed in His glory.

      The soul also suffers with the sickness of sin and death and is
      imprisoned by the temptations of the passions and of the demons. How do
      we bring comfort to our suffering soul? We do this by removing those
      thorns which cause the soul pain, and which aggravate the wounds of sin
      preventing them from healing. This we do by the ascetic labor of fasting
      and self denial. By this ascetic labor we undertake the slow and
      difficult task of extracting from the suffering soul those thorns of sin
      which dig into the soul and cause it pain, which pull the soul away from
      Christ, which are the barriers to the life of Christ which we desire.

      Though we don’t know the time or the season (for this is known only to
      God) that the world will end, we do know that when that time comes we
      will stand before the throne of God and be judged. He will seek to see
      His life in us. Did we feed the hungry by nourishing our own soul with
      the healthy food of the Gospel and through the communion of prayer,
      imparting to it the life of Christ? Did we give drink to the thirsty,
      bringing to our soul the living water of grace poured out upon us in the
      sacraments? Did we clothe the naked soul with the garments of virtue?
      Did we comfort the sick and imprisoned soul by removing the torments of
      temptation and sin by the ascetic labor of fasting and self denial? If
      we have indeed done these things, we will hear the words of joy from our
      Lord who will see His own life in us and who will set us on His right
      hand, give us His eternal life and establish us in His Kingdom.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
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